YOKOHAMA (Reuters) - Mexican team America will be fired up by the thought of marking their centenary year by beating Real Madrid and becoming the first team from the CONCACAF region to reach the Club World Cup final, Real manager Zinedine Zidane has said.
America, the CONCACAF Champions League holders, beat South Korean side Jeonbuk Motors 2-1 to set up a semi-final clash with Real in Yokohama on Thursday and Zidane said the prospect of facing the Spanish giants would motivate the Mexicans.
“I think Club America are very motivated because they want to celebrate their centenary,” Zidane was quoted as saying by Kyodo.
“Some clubs only have a once in a lifetime chance to play against Real Madrid and I think it is a very good opportunity for them.”
Zidane denied that Real were favourites to win the game, saying his players would have to work hard to reach Sunday’s final against Atletico Nacional or Kashima Antlers.
“I never think that we have a better opportunity to win than our opponents. We have to play football and many people expect Real Madrid to win the game very easily but that is not what I think,” he added.
”We will be playing against great opponents and I am sure we will have a tough time during that match and that is what I will be telling my players.
The Real manager is unlikely to risk captain Sergio Ramos for Thursday’s game, with the defender not having trained for the past two days, and would not be drawn on whether talisman Cristiano Ronaldo would feature.
“I have to think about the starting XI and I will disclose who will be playing tomorrow,” Zidane said.
“Of course, he (Ronaldo) is as motivated as always. He is always motivated regardless of who the opponents are or whether it is a friendly or even training.”
Ronaldo won his fourth Ballon d‘Or award on Monday, and Zidane paid tribute to the Portugal forward’s achievement.
“It is very rare that one player wins so many awards,” he said. “His fourth Ballon d‘Or is a great achievement and not something that can easily be achieved. What he’s doing now is very wonderful. Maybe he deserves a fifth Ballon d‘Or as well.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris